Coffee pods have taken the coffee world by storm. They have made brewing both filter and espresso-like coffee at home easier than ever. Two of the main contenders leading the pack when it comes to pods are Nespresso and Keurig. But which is best? Let’s take a good look at each system— we’ll weigh up the pros and cons, look at what they do and how they do it, so we can help you decide which is the best machine for you.
What Is Nespresso
Nespresso, a company owned by Nestle, manufactures and sells coffee machines and coffee pods, also known as capsules, to be used in them. The history of Nespresso is surprisingly interesting— let’s take a brief detour for a short Nespresso history lesson!
Short History of Nespresso
Though not hugely popular until around the year 2000, the first Nespresso system was patented way back in 1976 after Eric Farve, a Swiss engineer working for Nestle, noticed that when more air and pressure are forced through the coffee when brewing espresso, the resulting crema— the thick, golden layer of foam on top of a shot of espresso— is better. Farve designed the first Nespresso machine to mimic these results, only instead of using freshly ground coffee as one would use with an espresso machine, used preground coffee sealed in a pod. The system was first released in Japan, followed by Italy, France, and other parts of Europe.
Up until the first Nespresso retail store opened in Paris in the year 2000, Nespresso was an eCommerce business, selling their machines online, and licensing their system to brands like Krups, Phillips, Siemens, and De’ longi.
Benefits of Nespresso
Anyone who has used a Nespresso machine will almost certainly tell you that the biggest benefit of the Nespresso system, and largely the reason why in 2011 (the last time the numbers of pods sold were kept track of) 6.5 billion capsules were sold, is the ease of use. There may be coffee that tastes better than Nespresso coffee, but there aren’t many options that are easier or more convenient.
Even products designed to be almost entirely effortless, like Barisueir— the alarm clock that wakes you up to fresh coffee, aren’t nearly as easy to use like a Nespresso machine.
Nespresso systems also have the benefit of being able to brew single serves of coffee. Making single cups of coffee at a time, rather than a large batch, often equals far less waste. No more brewing an entire pot of coffee and leaving it out until it goes stale.
How Does Nespresso Work
The Nespresso system works by loading a pod or capsule filled with ground coffee into the Nespresso machine. When the brew function is engaged, three needles puncture the smaller plastic end of the capsule, allowing water to flow into the capsule at high pressures, extracting the coffee and eventually rupturing the foil end of the capsule and allowing the coffee to flow into the cup.
Nespresso works in a similar fashion as a traditional espresso machine— using hot water and pressure to gain a high extraction.
Pros and Cons of Nespresso
Like anything, Nespresso machines and the pods that pair with them, have good things and bad. Weighing up the pros and cons is another way to decide whether or not a particular system is right for you.
- Simple and easy to use.
- Great for offices or making many single cups of coffee quickly.
- Third-party companies have designed reusable, refillable capsules— a much more sustainable and eco-friendly option.
- No need for a grinder, multiple brewing devices, or to buy and store bags of coffee.
- Many specialty coffee companies make capsules for Nespresso machines nowadays, meaning one can have some legitimately delicious specialty grade coffee in a capsule.
- The Nespresso branded pods can be quite expensive.
- Though each pod is small, the amount of waste created by disposable pods each year is astronomical.
- The user essentially has zero control over the coffee that comes out, meaning you can’t tweak anything to tailor the coffee to suit your tastes.
What Is Keurig
Keurig, an American company, founded in 1992, first designed and manufactured capsule machines mainly for use in offices, in 1998. The invention of a pod of preground coffee, and the machine that can brew it, was John Sylvan’s— one of the founders of Keurig— solution to the age-old problem of coffee in the office.
Before machines like the Keurig coffee maker and the Nespresso, many offices used batch brewers. While a batch brewer may be an excellent option if the coffee is consumed quickly, in offices, the coffee commonly sits for long periods of time, become bitter and quickly going stale. The K-cup, which is what Keurig calls their pods, are single-serve, therefore solving that problem.
As the popularity of single-serve pod and capsule coffee makers grew, Keurig introduced a line of home coffee makers.
Benefits of Keurig
Like the Nespresso coffee maker, the number one benefit, and the major drawcard for many people, is Keurig’s simplicity and ease of use. There are hundreds of different coffees available from multiple companies and roasters, all ground up and packed and ready to be used— no need to look into the various ways of grinding coffee without a grinder— with a Keurig, you don’t need to grind at all!
Many Keurig machines have the added benefit of often offering both single cup and batch brewing within the same machine. This means that you’ll never waste an entire batch when you only need one cup, and will never waste time brewing single cups when you need a whole batch of coffee.
How Does Keurig Work
A K-cup, Keurig’s version of a pod, consists of four main parts— the cup, the lid, a filter, and of course, the coffee. Upon engaging the brewing mechanism on a Keurig coffee maker, after placing the K-cup in the machine, one hollow needle punctures a small hole in one side of the K-cup, while another punctures a hole on the opposite side.
Pressurized hot water is forced into the K-cup, working its way through the coffee and the filter, then finally flowing through the hole on the opposite side.
Every K-cup compatible machine works in the same way. For example, the Keurig k475 and k575 are often compared, but their differences lie only in the color options and the display screen sizes. The way they brew coffee is identical.
Pros and Cons of Keurig
We’ve already discussed at length one of the main benefits of Keurig coffee makers— their ease of use. But surely they have more to offer. And how about the downsides?
- Flexibility. Many Keurig k55 expert reviews state that one of the big pros of the K55 particularly, is the flexibility of cup sizes that one can brew.
- Easy and straightforward to use.
- Many different coffees from multiple roasters available.
- Refillable, reusable K-cups are also available.
- Because you’re only making one cup at a time, you will be throwing away far less coffee.
- Non-compostable K-cups create an enormous amount of waste each year. Try to choose ones that are guaranteed eco-friendly and compostable.
- You have very little control over the coffee that comes out of the machine. One can choose the size and maybe the strength only.
Nespresso vs Keurig Comparison
Now we know the history behind the two giants of the capsule coffee world— but how do the two compare? There are a few really important things to look at when it comes to choosing the right capsule coffee machine. These include overall price, durability, ease of cleaning, sustainability, and of course, the most important aspect of all taste. Let’s take a look at what you might want to consider.
Both Nespresso and Keurig devices use some kind of coffee capsule. Nespresso coffee makers use pods, while Keurig machines use what they call ‘K-cups.’ There are a few differences that separate them— both the shape and the filtration method varies a little between the two— but they all-in-all are quite similar.
While both pods and K-cups have a wide selection of coffees available, most of the really high-quality specialty coffee is only Nespresso compatible. This gives Nespresso an edge if you are looking at drinking specialty coffee.
Both options offer capsule holders— neat little shelves, racks and draws, that store your capsules. The world’s best coffee pod holders are available on Amazon and will look great as part of any kitchen coffee setup.
If you’re stuck deciding whether you should choose Nespresso’s pods or Keurig’s K-cups, another deciding factor may be the machine you’ll use to brew them in. Buying a machine for daily brewing can be tricky, with so many options, different prices, and all aesthetically different but designed to achieve the same goal – brewing tasty coffee.
When you take a good look at Amazon, the prices vary drastically. With the top-selling Nespresso machines going for a much higher premium than the Keurig ones, which sell equally as well.
So if budget is your deciding factor, the winner has to go to Keurig for their extremely affordable machines.
A particular coffee capsule could be inexpensive, strong and have beautiful packaging, but that all means nothing if the coffee inside doesn’t taste great.
When it comes to both pods and K-cups, there are options to suit any taste. There are capsules that are super strong, decaf or flavored, there are specialty coffee options, and there are even pods that can make a cafe latte or a cappuccino.
As far as taste goes, Nespresso and Keurig are about on par. As mentioned earlier, if you want more specialty coffee options, Nespresso is the way to go. But if specialty coffee isn’t your thing, then Nespresso and Keurig are, taste-wise, about equal.
Amount of Caffeine
Strong coffee— some people love it, and some not so much. There is something wonderful about rising early in the morning, going straight to the kitchen and brewing a strong cup of coffee, as is there about drinking a cup of decaf right before bed and not missing a wink of sleep. Luckily, there are options for everyone.
Strong coffee is often associated with bitter and burned flavors. But it doesn’t have to be this way. For example — Death Wish coffee is strong but doesn’t taste burnt, and nor does the Starbucks 2X caffeine K-cups.
Both systems are about equal on the highly caffeinated and decaf coffee front, so we’ll call this one a tie.
Quality, Durability and Reliability
Things that are made solidly, with quality and durability in mind, just feel reliable. If you’re one to drink your coffee from a stainless steel mug, you might agree. Something about the weight and feel of a well-built machine— ready to provide coffee for (hopefully) years to come.
Take the Keurig K150; for example— this Keurig coffee maker is strong and durable, a staple for many offices and homes alike. On the Nespresso side, there are a few options made by Brevelle that are incredibly hefty, made partly of stainless steel. Of course, these more premium machines come with a higher price tag, but will almost certainly come with far less frustration, especially in the long run.
Durability is an incredibly important factor to consider, and not just from the user end, but from a waste perspective— the longer a machine lasts, the fewer machines that will end up in landfills.
Types of Drinks Available
Whether you’re an espresso, filter, cafe latte, mocha or cappuccino person, both brewing systems have your back. Each system offers dozens of different coffees of varying origins, roasted by hundreds of different coffee manufacturers.
One plus side that Keurig does have with their K-cups is that they also offer tea, hot chocolate, and other non-coffee based drinks. Something that Nespresso does not currently offer.
While neither systems offer milk coffees for vegans, one can just pick up some vegan coffee creamer and add that to your coffee in the cup! Vegan coffee creamers should be completely animal product free, so be sure to check on the label to ensure no animal products are present.
Cost per Serving
Of course, one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing between K-cups and pods is the price. Generally speaking, Nespresso pods are more expensive than K-cups, with the prices for the best K-cups coming in at somewhere between 30 and 70 cents per K-cup, while the price of pods ranges anywhere from 40 cents up to $2 each.
We find the same thing when looking at the machines, with Nespresso coffee makers, on average, being more expensive than Keurig devices.
It looks like Keurig wins in the overall battle of the savings!
When we are talking about the performance of a capsule coffee brewer, we are talking about how well it does what it is supposed to do, repeatedly, every single time. Is it prone to malfunction? Does the coffee spray out in some far-flung direction instead of into the cup? Is the water pressure high enough to extract the coffee in a timely fashion, yet no too high as to explode the capsule and leave your machine and kitchen counter covered in coffee grinds?
While many of these issues are related to the machine not being cleaned regularly, reading reviews can help a lot when deciding how well a machine might perform.
Ease of Cleaning
With any coffee brewing gear— whether it’s a French press or an espresso machine— regular cleaning is essential for not only making delicious coffee but also to keep the coffee maker performing properly.
The job of cleaning is super easy with most capsule-based coffee machines. It generally involves filling the water reservoir with a descaling solution and then running it through the machine in the same way you’d brew coffee. You can use vinegar or descaling solution to clean a Keurig and a Nespresso coffee maker.
Capsule based coffee makers aren’t known as being the most sustainable option around. Each brew comes in a small plastic or metal container, which is great for single-serve coffee, but not excellent for the planet. If you look at the waste involved in using a pour-over vs French press, compared with the waste created by a capsule-based machine, the pods and K-cups produce almost infinitely more.
All hope is not lost, though. There are companies and coffee roasters out there doing their best to use recyclable, and sometimes even fully compostable pods. This is a good step toward sustainability.
Another excellent option if you want to use a Keurig or Nespresso machine, but also want to reduce your impact, is using reusable capsules. There are a few big pluses to these— firstly, you can fill these capsules with any coffee you want. Second, they are inexpensive, with many options coming in at under $10 for a 4 pack of reusable K-cups. This will reduce your waste massively.
Many single-serve brewers have programmable features such as a timer, auto on/off and variable sizing. If being able to customize your machine with these features is important to you, certainly check to make sure the machine you’re looking at has these capabilities, as not every coffee maker does.
Automatic Capsule Ejection
In most capsule machines, you’ll load your capsule into the brewing chamber, and once the machine has done its thing, you’ll need to remove the capsule. Some of the more high-end machines, on the other hand, offer automatic capsule ejection. This is basically where you load a pod into the machine, and once brewing is complete, the machine will automatically remove the pod from the brewing chamber and store the used pod in a collection area.
Like programmable features, this certainly doesn’t come standard, so keep an eye out for which coffee makers have it. This feature is more common to see in Nespresso machines.
Water Reservoir and Carafe
For many people, the appeal of a capsule-based brewing system is that they are designed to brew one cup. Nice and simple. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to brew a bigger batch— say a carafe of drip coffee, all on the same machine? Machines, like the Keurig K-duo, offer just that.
If you will be brewing multiple single cups, and you want them brewed quickly, look for a machine with a large enough water reservoir. A reservoir of somewhere around 60oz is a nice size, big enough for a large amount of coffee, but not too big as to be cumbersome to refill or empty.
How to Brew Coffee With Nespresso
Now we’ve got our machine and we’re ready to brew— let’s get to it!
Nespresso coffee makers are possibly the easiest machines on the planet to use— simply add water to the reservoir, add a coffee pod to the brew chamber and the machine does the rest!
Step 1 — Fill the water reservoir
Fill the water reservoir with your chosen water to the line indicated on the tank itself. Be sure not to overfill the water tank. Turn the machine on. There will usually be lights on the machine that will blink— this means the machine is heating up. When the lights are steady, this means the machine is ready to use.
Step 2 — Insert a pod
Choose the coffee pod you want to brew and insert it into the brewing chamber. Place a cup under the coffee outlet. Make sure that the cup has a large enough capacity for the coffee size you’ll be brewing.
Step 3 — Brew
Most machines have at least two brewing size options— espresso and lungo. Lungo uses more water, which results in a larger beverage, while espresso will offer more of an espresso shot. Each pod is usually designed for a specific size. Press the button indicated by the pod and the machine will begin brewing.
Step 4 — Remove the pod
Once the brew is complete, remove the cup from under the outlet. If your machine auto ejects pods, excellent— you’re all done! If not, remove the pod in the same way you placed it in.
Enjoy your coffee!
How to Brew Coffee With Keurig
Like Nespresso machines, brewing with a Keurig couldn’t be easier. With so many options, choosing the coffee, you’ll use is likely to be the most difficult part of the process! Just pop in a K-cup, engage the brewer and watch the coffee flow.
Step 1 — Fill the water reservoir
First, we need to fill up the machine with brewing water. Remove the water tank and fill with clean quality room temperature water up to the indicator line. Be sure not to overfill it. Fix the water tank back into place and turn on the machine. The machine will now begin warming up. Depending on your machine, this may take about a minute or so. Most machines will display a flashing light that will turn solid once the machine is ready to brew.
Step 2 — Insert a K-cup
Lift the lid of your Keurig, take your favorite K-cup, place it into the brewing chamber and close the lid. No need to worry about putting the K-cup in the wrong way— it will only fit in the correct direction. Place your favorite mug under the coffee outlet. Be sure that the mug you’ve chosen is large enough for your chosen brew size.
Step 3 — Brew
Now, the fun part— watching the coffee flow! Choose the size of the drink you want based on the strength you are after and engage the brew. Watch that golden crema flowing into the mug.
Step 4 — Remove K-cup
Once your coffee is finished brewing, remove your mug. Lift the lid of your machine and remove the used K-cup. Either compost, recycle or discard it.
Enjoy your quick and easy coffee!
How to Clean Your Coffee Machine
Cleaning is an essential step for every coffee brewing setup. It is almost impossible to brew a tasty cup of coffee using an unclean brewer— and even when a brewer looks clean, it may not be.
Coffee by nature is very oily. And though you might not see or feel it, this oil can really stick to your brewing gear over time. Anything that the coffee touches— grinders, brewers, and even coffee cups are susceptible to this oil build up.
The exact same happens with water, except water contains many minerals rather than oil. These minerals, specifically magnesium and calcium, really build up on anything they touch and can affect the efficiency of our coffee maker. It can clog pipes that deliver water to the capsule and it can even affect the heating element of the machine itself.
Water and coffee have such an effect on coffee makers that many bad reviews of a particular machine are often thanks in large part to the oil in coffee or the minerals in the water clogging parts of the machine, forcing it to malfunction. With correct machine maintenance and a good cleaning schedule, we can avoid most of these issues.
While cleaning the machine might sound like a lot of work, it’s actually incredibly easy— no more work than it would be to brew a few cups of coffee.
Let’s take a good look at how to keep both Nespresso and Keurig machines brewing coffee as good as new.
How to Clean a Nespresso Coffee Maker
Descaling your Nespresso machine is an important step in ensuring you get a nice, clean-tasting coffee, every time. For this example, we are going to be using Nespresso’s descaling solution. Purpose made cleaners do an excellent job at cleaning.
To clean a Nespresso machine, we need to enter descaling mode on the machine. Each machine functions a little differently, so be sure to follow the instructions that came with your Nespresso machine as to how to get into descaling mode.
Step 1 — Add the solution
Before adding the solution to the water tank, make sure the machine is turned off and there is no pod inside the brewing chamber. Add 500ml of water to the tank, and one packet of the Nespresso descaling solution. Turn on the machine and wait for it to heat up. You will know when the machine is ready when the lights stop blinking.
Step 2 — Enter descaling mode
Next, place a container with around a 1 liter capacity under the coffee outlet. This is to collect all of the descaling water and solution. Enter your machine into descaling mode. This is different on every machine, but on the Nespresso Inissia, this is done by holding the espresso and lungo buttons down for 3 seconds, until the lights start blinking. Descaling mode is now active. Press the lungo button and the solution will begin working its way through the machine.
Step 3 — Descaling round two
Once the machine has finished running the solution through, we’re going to run it through again. Empty the contents of the collection container back into the water tank, place the collection container back under the coffee outlet, and press the lungo button once more.
Step 4 — Rinse
Once the second round is complete, discard the water solution in the collection container and thoroughly rinse the water talk. Refill it with fresh, clean water. Return the collection container under the coffee outlet and press the lungo button again. Allow the tank to empty completely. Discard the rinse water and empty the drip tray.
Step 5 — Refill the water tank
Refill the water tank with clean water. Press and hold the espresso and lungo buttons for 3 seconds to exit descaling mode. Your Nespresso machine is now clean as a whistle and ready to brew once again!
How to Clean a Keurig Coffee Maker
Most of the issues related to K-cup based machines are generally avoided by proper cleaning. The method of cleaning Keurig machines is super simple and needs no technical knowledge— just run the solution through the machine in the same way you would brew coffee. While you can absolutely use vinegar to clean your Keurig, for this example, we’ll use a bottle of Keurig descaling solution.
Step 1 — Prepare the machine
Turn off your machine, empty the water tank, and remove the water filter. Pour the entire contents of a bottle of descaling solution into the water tank, then fill the empty bottle up with water and add that to the water tank of your Keurig. Ensure there is no K-cup in the brew head.
Step 2 — Begin cleaning
Power on the machine, place a large mug or container under the coffee outlet, and ‘brew’ a 10oz’ cleansing brew’. This is essentially just running the solution through the machine, in the same way, you’d brew a coffee, in order to clean all the pipes that come into contact with coffee and water. Discard the contents of the mug or container.
Step 3 — Continue cleaning
Continue running cleansing brews through the machine until the add water light comes on. Let the brewer sit for 30 minutes with the power on.
Step 4 — Rinse the water tank
Rinse the water tank thoroughly and then fill it with clean water.
Step 5 — Rinse the brewer
Lastly, we’re going to run at least 12’ cleansing brews’ through the machine in order to remove any of the remaining cleaning solution. Once this is complete, your Keurig is super sparkling clean and ready to brew!
Do’s and Don’ts With Nespresso and Keurig Coffee Makers
- Do warm-up your mug before drinking a coffee. Pouring hot coffee into a cold mug will drastically reduce the temperature of your brew.
- Do try different capsules from different rosters. There are some excellent tasting pods out there.
- Do try to use biodegradable and fully compostable pods.
- Don’t overfill your machine’s water tank past the recommended level.
- Don’t forget to clean your machine. Regular cleaning is important for both making tasty coffee and machine performance.
FAQ About Nespresso and Keurig Coffee Makers
Will Nespresso capsules work in Keurig?
Unfortunately not. Though the two systems have the same goal, and the final product is somewhat similar, the two systems have very different shaped capsules, meaning they aren’t interchangeable.
Does Nespresso have more caffeine than Keurig?
The caffeine level of any capsule is purely based on the coffee within each capsule. While there is a common misconception that darker coffee has more caffeine, this is not the case. The amount of caffeine coffee has is already in the coffee bean before it is roasted— and roasting it has little effect on the caffeine within the bean. Both systems do offer capsules with higher and lower caffeine levels.
Can you use a Nespresso pod twice?
Definitely! There is nothing dangerous or harmful about using a pod twice. The second use will taste pretty weak, with the flavors of the coffee quite flat, but many people do it to get the most they can out of each pod.
Are Keurig and Nespresso safe?
As long as you keep the machine clean, they are absolutely safe. If you don’t clean your machine around once every 3 months, mold and bacteria can build up in parts of the machine, which can be harmful to humans. This is the case for all coffee makers and isn’t particularly a Nespresso or Keurig issue.
Everyone’s needs are different when it comes to the machines we choose to involve in our daily lives. A machine that might work perfectly for some people might not work so well for others.
Have a think about what you personally want in a coffee maker. Take into account all the factors we’ve discussed— from price, performance, and coffee choices to ease of cleaning and reliability. This will help you choose a machine that will give you joy for many years to come— because that’s what coffee is all about!